The strength of the commercial market was reflected by record attendance at this year’s NeoCon meeting in Chicago.

Many of the 1,200 exhibitors on hand in Chicago for NeoCon seemed to be competing for the title of “Industry’s Greenest Supplier.” With record attendance of more than 52,000, the 39th annual trade fair for the commercial market offered ample evidence that more and more manufacturers see environmental concerns as a dominant selling point. 

The trend was impossible to miss among numerous carpet, hardwood, resilient, laminate, stone and tile products vying for attention. Mindful that the new home construction and remodeling sectors are slumping, NeoCon exhibitors were quick to remind those in the flooring business that the commercial market is still humming along.

Exhibitors stressed that the newest products are in keeping with the flooring industry’s long-standing commitment to environmentally responsible manufacturing. The industry is building on that platform and offering wider assortments, bolder color options and tough-as-nails performance, with new lines from Armstrong, Mannington and Tarkett among them.

Johnsonite made the case for intermingling function and aesthetics with its Color Foundation System. Simply put, the company believes the shades included in its carefully selected palette of colors can create a positive workspace. “Neutral palettes offer an opportunity to influence mood, delineate space, motivate and inspire,” said Sharon Folliard, vp of design and development.

As always, carpet was well represented at the show. Big names including Mohawk, Shaw and Bentley Prince Street exhibited side-by-side with much smaller firms. The clear consensus is that broadloom remains in a growth mode and that designers are not always sticking to the tried and true brands. Often, originality is enough to make a splash. Designweave, for example, was touting carpet made to look like a comfortable old quilt or blanket. The idea is to add “more soul and a warmer feeling” to the products said brand management director Melissa Hill.

For hardwood flooring makers, the focus on drawing interest beyond residential area was evidenced by BR-111’s Designer and Architect Series, which is largely composed of wood reclaimed from the manufacturing process of other lines. Additionally, Mirage, featured the Elegant, Stylish and Natural collections.

In the ceramic and porcelain tile realm, large-format tiles remain popular, as do products engineered to appear, and even feel, like wood or natural stone. These wood- and stone-look tiles are also available in larger formats. Showgoers generally agreed that the demand for large format tile reflects a desire among designers to achieve a minimalistic look, with fewer grout lines as well as ensuring quick, labor-saving installations.